Why it’s important to have your say on proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act… writes Vic Alhadeff

April 29, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Australians who care about the social cohesion of our society have until Wednesday to make our voices heard before the deadline for submissions on the proposal to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Vic Alhadeff

Vic Alhadeff

It’s essential that our government appreciates the extent of the massive opposition that exists to the proposal to dilute 18C, which means the more submissions it receives, the louder and clearer the message. To be frank, it’s a question of quantity, not quality.

The safeguards provided by the Racial Discrimination Act have been in place for almost 20 years, including during the 11 years of the Howard government, giving targets of hate speech a peaceful and legal avenue of redress. These laws have helped to resolve hundreds of cases that would otherwise have been left to fester and to degrade social cohesion.

The laws protect all Australians against racial vilification, not only minority groups, and are one of the few inhibitors we possess against the racism which underpins many overseas conflicts.

The proposed changes, if passed, will send a dangerous signal that hate speech is sanctioned as a form of freedom of speech, that bigotry has a place in our society. While we accept this is not the Government’s intention, that will be the effect, and those so inclined will be encouraged to take bigotry into the public domain. Even in situations of unambiguous abuse, the victim will be required to prove that the abuse may incite a third party to racial hatred – an extremely difficult test to satisfy.

Those who bring diversity to our country will be more susceptible to racist taunts aimed at their culture, their tradition, their faith, their skin colour. They will be rendered vulnerable to hate speech.

Our government has a duty to make racism socially unacceptable and to provide the targets of racism with a legal course of action. The proposed changes will take our society in the opposite direction – at great cost to us all.

On behalf of the 190 ethnic communities of New South Wales, we urge the Federal Government to withdraw its Exposure Draft of the Freedom of Speech (Repeal of Section 18C) Bill 2014. And we urge all citizens to make our voices heard. It’s the last opportunity to effect what could be a game-changing piece of legislation, one which could seriously damage our country’s social cohesion. We have 24 hours in which to have our say.

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Why it’s important to have your say on proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act… writes Vic Alhadeff”
  1. To the Australian Government,

    Do not change the Section 18C as it stands. It is working and protecting the people that are not able to defend themselves. This law has proven itself to be protecting all human rights, so why we need to change now. If it is to protect a small number of people that are just arrogant and find themselves inciting and degrading other human beings, such low should be in place to protect the majority. Do not change Section 18C!

  2. We, in Australia are proud of our multicultural society and while there exists tons of goodwill in the community there still lurks an undercurrent of racism. Section 18C has afforded some protection against racial slurs and vilification. Doing away with, or modifying this section, could open a Pandora’s box of racial outbursts and more.
    Please do everything possible to leave this section alone.

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